Although SARS-CoV-2 is not a proven foodborne pathogen, the COVID-19 pandemic has put the food system on alert. Food safety is identified as an important pillar in mitigating the crisis. Therefore, understanding how popular media are used as a vital disseminator of food safety and health information for public use is more important than ever. YouTube deserves particular attention as one of the most highly trafficked websites on the internet, especially as it has been blamed for spreading misleading or untrustworthy information during the pandemic that contradicts validated information. This study evaluates the food safety information and practices circulated on YouTube during the COVID-19 pandemic and their alignment with government agencies’ recommendations. A search for videos on YouTube was conducted using the keywords “Food and COVID-19,” “Food safety and COVID-19,” and “Groceries and COVID-19.” After applying a series of inclusive and exclusive criteria, a total of 85 different videos from the United States and Canada were evaluated. More than half (59%) of the videos presented handwashing procedures, less than a third (22%) showed kitchen disinfection, and most (69%) showed concern for “take-out” or “grocery store” practices. Multiple and different produce washing procedures were also shown throughout videos. Food was not considered hazardous by 33% of the videos, but 20% mentioned that food packaging is potentially hazardous. Most videos cited government agencies and had a host or guest who was a healthcare professional or professor/expert. Of the overall citations, three videos were not aligned with a government agency’s guideline or information cited; two were presented by a healthcare professional. These findings demonstrate the need to develop educational interventions that increase YouTube video hosts and guests’ awareness of social media use as a tool for food safety dissemination and the need to provide trustworthy sources.
Exploring Food Safety Messages in an Era of COVID-19: Analysis of YouTube Video Content
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Merlyn Thomas, Peyton Haynes, Juan Archila, Mai Nguyen, Wenqing Xu, Yaohua Feng; Exploring Food Safety Messages in an Era of COVID-19: Analysis of YouTube Video Content. J Food Prot 2021; doi: https://doi.org/10.4315/JFP-20-463
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